Friday, July 29, 2005

Handicapping the Heisman race

The Heisman trophy. One of the most storied individual awards in all of sports. But what does it mean? Who deserves to win it? The best player? The most valuable player? The best player on the best team?

In my opinion, it should go to the best player in the country. From what I've seen, it goes to the best player in the country who is also on a very good team. It's not right, but that's the way it is. Here's a look at some of the top contenders in the country off the top of my head. If I forgot somebody, just let me know as it may have just been a blind oversight. These aren't in any particular order.

Matt Leinart - USC QB and reigning Heisman winner. He is the face of the best team in the country and is coming off a monster season and a national title. He also gets all his surrounding skill players back so expect big things again this year. If USC goes undefeated again he will be tough to beat. What could go wrong? OC guru Norm Chow is long gone and the USC offense might not have the same playcalling magic they've had the last few years. Either that or the voters could just decide they don't want a repeat winner.

Reggie Bush - USC TB/KR extraordinaire and Heisman finalist last year. If USC goes undefeated and Leinart doesn't win the Heisman, this guy is probably next in line. He is electric in the open field and really fun to watch with the ball in his hands. One of the few players in the country that is a threat to score every time they get the ball. He will definitely have at least a few "Heisman moments" on national TV this year. What could go wrong? Well, he splits time at TB with LenDale White who will eat up a lot of rushing yardage and TDs. He also is second fiddle to guys like Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett for receptions. He might be the best player on the USC team because of his versatility, but he might not put up dominant numbers.

Adrian Peterson - Oklahoma TB and Heisman finalist last year. He put up monster numbers last year as a true freshman and is looking for even more as a sophomore. Oklahoma once again figures to have a great team and he is the focal point of their offense with Jason White off to whatever it is weak armed, bad kneed, former great college QBs do these days. What could go wrong? Well, Jason White is gone as is Mark Clayton and possibly their other top WR (Bradley?) so the defenses will really be ganging up on Peterson. He might be a better player this year, but his numbers will likely suffer a hit as teams make stopping him their first priority.

Vince Young - Texas QB. It's been a while since the Longhorns beat the Sooners, but they've got a chance this year. Let's not forget they also have an early season game at Ohio State. I would be shocked if they beat the Buckeyes and Sooners, but if they do the Heisman is Young's for the losing. Personally, I don't think he is a great QB. He's a great runner, but below average throwing the ball. His Heisman-rep right now is probably 80% due to the Rose Bowl where he lit up a Michigan D that had been torched by mobile QBs all year long. Seeing as how he played similar to Troy Smith and Drew Stanton against Michigan in that game, I cannot see how he rates any better than they do. That said, my opinion isn't the most prevalant right now. And if Texas runs the table this year I cannot see anybody else winning the Heisman. What could go wrong? Well, Texas is going to be an underdog to Ohio State and Oklahoma. Unless they pull of shockers and win both, his candidacy is likely over.

From here it drops off a bit to longer shots....

Chris Leak - Florida QB. Former mega-recruit has been progressing nicely in Gainesville. He had a good year as a true freshman and followed that up with a very good year as a sophomore. Now Urban Meyer is in town and people are expecting the same numbers Alex Smith put up last year for Utah. Should they? Perhaps. Leak is a very good passer and pretty athletic. Not a speedster, but he can make plays with his feet. I'll admit I'm not quite as up on the Gators chances of running the table this year, but expect Leak to make a little Heisman noise if they win some games. What could go wrong? Meyer might be a great coach, but it is still a new offense to learn and mistakes are bound to happen.

Drew Tate - Iowa QB. Last year the Hawkeyes had a rash of injuries to tailbacks and the offense was left up to Tate. He was more than up to the challenge and was named first team all conference in the Big Ten and capped his season with a miracle finish against LSU. Iowa should have an improved ground game this year to provide him a little more help. What could go wrong? Well, Iowa has games at OSU and Purdue along with a home date with Michigan. Unless Iowa goes 10-1 or better, Tate probably has no chance at the Heisman. But if they are in the national title hunt, he's almost a lock to be a Heisman finalist.

Chad Henne - Michigan QB. He's coming off one of the finest true freshman QB seasons in the history of college football including a Rose Bowl record tying 4 TD passes. Throw in more returning skill position talent around him than any other school in the country not named USC and he is poised for a monster year for the Wolverines. What could go wrong? Did I mention that Biletnikoff winner and security blanket supreme Braylon Edwards is off to the NFL along with Center and Rimington winner David Baas? It's conceivable that Henne could falter without Edwards to bail him out on occasion. It should be noted, however, that I prefer to base talent on who is returning instead of who isn't. And Michigan will line up all-conference caliber players almost across the board on offense. The schedule is favorable, but a road date with Iowa looms as very difficult.

Mike Hart - Michigan TB. I feel obligated to list Hart even though he won't win it. The guy ran for over 1400 yards in the last 10 games once he was named starter. If it wasn't for Adrian Peterson, it would have been the finest true freshman season by a TB that I have ever witnessed. Fortunately for Michigan and unfortunately for Mike Hart's Heisman chances, Kevin Grady and Max Martin will be eating up a bunch of his carries. That's what happens when you've got talent around you. Hart won't be getting 27 carries a game any longer, probably closer to 20. And with only 20 carries a game it will be hard for him to put up the mega-numbers a TB needs to win the Heisman. Don't get me wrong, he'll still crack a 1000 yards and possibly be first team all conference. But he won't be pushing 1500+ yards.

Laurence Maroney - Minnesota TB. If Mike Hart is going to suffer because of new found competition, Laurence Maroney is the opposite. Now that Marion Barber III has moved on, Maroney will see a ton of carries. And he's got the speed to break a bunch of long runs. 2000 yards and 15+ TDs is not out of the question this year for Maroney. Heck, anything less than 1500 is probably a disappointment. What could go wrong? Well, Minnesota still is not a good football team and will not be anywhere near the top 10 of a poll. He'll need to statistically destroy the competition to have a prayer in the Heisman race and I doubt that will happen.

I know I'm forgetting some guys from the ACC, SEC, Big 12, and Pac Ten. Leave comments or I'll edit this as I think of more.


Blogger mdg said...

Gerald Riggs looks like a strong candidate. UT should hover around the top 5 all season long and Riggs will be the main man for the Volunteer offense. 1,500 yards, 20 TD's, a SEC title and Rose Bowl berth could wrap up the Bronze statue. But let's face it, if USC is playing in the Rose Bowl it's Leinart's Trophy, if his numbers are down it probably goes to Bush.

Tue Aug 02, 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger robert paulson said...

Good call on Riggs. I'm not totally sold on the Volunteers ending up in the top 5, but he could put up some big numbers in a big conference for a big name team.

Mon Aug 08, 02:54:00 PM  

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